Tsukiji: Coming Soon

Naomi and I are pleased to announce our next book: Tsukiji: Tokyo Fish Market Suite. This 48 page soft cover book shows the inside of the world’s largest fish market. Tokyo Metropolitan Government has plans to relocate the market because of its aging 1935 infrastructure. This collection of 41 photographs pays homage to this remarkable place. The book will be released at the end of March. Click on the image for a larger view.

We Dance

japan_we_danceNaomi and I have been following the heartbreaking news of the earthquakes in Kumamoto, Japan (as well as the event in Ecuador). I was reminded of a story the American scholar Joseph Campbell used to tell about one of his visits to the country. Campbell overheard an American social philosopher talking to a Shinto priest, “We’ve been now to a good many ceremonies and have seen quite a few of your shrines. But I don’t get your ideology. I don’t get your theology.” The priest paused to consider the question and then answered, “I think we don’t have ideology. We don’t have theology. We dance.”

For information on how to help, you can visit the Japan Times website.


japan_hase_deraTucked in along the walls of a valley just south of Nara is the Buddhist temple Hase-dera. The Japanese visit in the spring to see the cherry, plum, and magnolia in blossom. The compound is huge with over thirty buildings. Long flights of stone steps help you traverse the topography. Despite the size, Hase-dera has cultivated a landscape where it is difficult to separate the artificial from the natural. Click on the image for a larger view.

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Plenty of Fish in the Sea…

tsukiji_more_fish_in_the_seaA report was issued recently on the state of the cod fisheries in Maine. After decades of overfishing, a strict quota was placed on the level of the catch. Based on models of cod reproduction, the stock should have rebounded, but it didn’t. What was left out of the model was the change in the environmental conditions in the Gulf of Maine. That body of water is one of the fastest warming areas in the ocean. It is claimed that if we protect the environment, it will destroy economic growth, it will kill jobs. Yet, I don’t see the current plan working out very well…


Japan_binzaru_2Satori is the Japanese word for enlightenment, awakening. Zen Buddhist believe this does not happen gradually, but comes like a clap of thunder. D. T. Suzuki, the Japanese Buddhist scholar and philosopher, describes it as “seeing into your own nature,” “…to see our own ‘original face’ even before we were born, to hear the cry of the crow even before it was uttered, to be with God even before he commanded the light to be.”

The image is of Binzuru on the island of Miyajima in western Japan. I have written about the legend of this charming figure before. This type of scarf is popular with school girls and a kind offering this time of year. Click on the image for a larger view.

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New Years Eve in Tokyo

japan_tokyo_new_yearsNew Years is a big deal in Japan. It is simply not a party during the evening of December 31st. It begins then, but will be celebrated for the next several weeks. January is a month of firsts—the first visit to a shrine or temple (hatsumode), the first drawing of water, the first calligraphy, the first day of business, and so on.

This is the main gate to Meiji Shrine, the largest shrine in Tokyo. In the first three days of 2010, 3.2 million people visited this shrine. When you think that most people leave a ¥100 coin (about a dollar) as an offering, New Years is an important time for these places. Click on the image for a larger view.


new_england_barnThe barn is the quintessential piece of New England architecture—the Ansel Adams photograph commonly published that is not from the west coast is of a barn in New Hampshire. These structures reflect simultaneously the area’s vibrant agricultural tradition and its decline. Click on the image for a larger view.

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new_england_marionettePeterborough, New Hampshire, was home to a marvelous marionette theater (don’t call them puppets). Started by the retired newspaper publisher Ted Leach, this theater put on classic opera in the town and around the world. Ted is shown backstage manipulating Mimì from the opera La Bohème. In 1999, a fire destroyed the 155 year old Baptist Church that was home to the company. Click on the image for a larger view.

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new_england_signs_1At the trailhead of Temple Mountain in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire. Some signs are warnings, others are invitations. Click on the image for a larger view.

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Mr Chester

new_england_chesterMr. Chester of Dublin typifies the New Englander—fiercely independent with a straightforward practicality. Chester is widely known as a restorer of antique automobiles, specifically model A Fords. Locally he is known as the fire chief. Click on the image for a larger view.

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Mt. Monadnock

new_england_mt_monadnockMt. Monadnock, located in southern New Hampshire, is known as the most climbed mountain in America. At 3,165 ft or 965m, it is not the highest mountain in New England, but, having no other mountain of similar elevation near it, it is the most prominent feature in the area. The name is believe to be derived from the Abenaki and is thought to mean “mountain standing alone.” Mt. Monadnock gives its name to the surrounding region. Click on the image for a larger view.

Shugyo Daishi and the Pilgrim

shikoku_chodoanThe trail between temples 11 and 12 was enveloped in fog the day we travelled it. The mountain path followed a forested ridge. Then, strangely, the dirt trail ended in a flight of stone steps. As we climbed, a figure materialized from the trees.

We had reached Jyouren hermitage, a bangai, an unnumbered temple, one of over a hundred such places on the 88 Sacred Places of Shikoku Pilgrimage. The statue is of Shugyo Daishi. This is not the image of Kobo Daishi, the saint pilgrims follow and the one that attained enlightenment, but the man that was seeking that enlightenment.

The tree behind the statue was said to have been planted by Kobo Daishi when, in a dream, he had a vision of the Buddha Dainishi-nyorai. Click on the image for a larger view.

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Passport to Enlightenment

shikoku_temple_84_nokyochoThe pilgrim to the Eighty-eight Sacred Places of Shikoku Pilgrimage carries a small book, nokyocho, in which the seal of each of the temples is inscribed, in this case, temple 84. It is one of the most important records of the journey and is treasured as a sacred object. If the pilgrim undertakes another pilgrimage, the same book is used with a new seal being inscribed over the previous ones. Pilgrims that have completed the path multiple times have pages covered red and black from the number of inscriptions. Click on the image for a larger view.

Kamikochi and Yari-ga-take

kamikochi_yari_ga_takeOne of the most popular climbing destinations in Kamikochi is the arrow-shaped peak of Yari-ga-take (3,180m/10,430ft.). And it is popular. You will most likely have to stand in line during the morning rush hour while climbers ascend to the summit—there are two routes, one to go up and another to go down.

The first known ascent of Yari-ga-take was by the Buddhist monk Banryu in 1826. The English missionary Walter Weston would scale this mountain 66 years later. While Banryu installed three Buddhist statues, today the summit has a Shinto shrine. The cave Banryu was said to have used for his attempt is still on the trail a few hundred meters below the ridge.

This image was taken from the trail to Momisawa-dake (2755m/9,040ft.) north of Kamikochi. This is a gentler, more secluded section of the alps. Click on the image for a larger view.

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Kamikochi and Daikiretto

kamikochi_the_big_cutThe main ridge of the peaks in Kamikochi is a spectacular alpine zone. Daikiretto (大切戸), the Big Gap, is a one kilometer or two-thirds of a mile section that has numerous vertical pitches of rock with chains and ladders to aid climbers. The estimated time to traverse this for an experienced climber is about three and a half hours. This is the view from Kita Hodaka-dake (3,106m/10,190ft.). Click on the image for a larger view.